China’s Lab-Grown Diamonds Could Reshape Global Gemstone Industry

Diamond
A 552-carat diamond discovered in Canada is pictured on display in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 30, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Mined diamonds are still selling good across the globe but the boom in lab-grown precious stones, particularly in China, is paving the way for a revamp in the international gemstone industry, experts said.

Multiple companies in China have leveraged on technological innovations to manufacture diamonds in bulk. In just a few days or weeks, diamonds are grown in laboratories across the country.

Spokeswoman for Antwerp World Diamond Center, Margaux Donckier said of Chinese diamonds, "China, and by extension Asia, is the main producer of synthetic diamonds. Synthetic goods only represent about 3-5 percent of the [consumer] market, but the share is growing rapidly," Xinhua reported.

Analysts believe that China now has better chances of turning into a major supplier of man-made diamonds. However, this chance will be gauged mainly on public perception of synthetic precious stones. It is too early to tell if lab-grown stones can substitute mined ones, analysts argued.

Previously, Chinese diamond manufacturers provided the stones for industrial use including oil rigs, aeronautics, and electronics. Over the past couple of years, China pivoted towards consumer use and the industry has been growing since then.

Abrasives were the main products that lab-grown diamonds were manufactured for but China's Henan Province later ventured into jewelry. Henan Huanghe Whirlwind, one of the prominent laboratories that creates synthetic diamonds, recently included "Lab Grown Diamond (Gem Quality) in its product list.

Paul Zimnisky, an independent diamond analyst based in New York, explained that synthetic diamonds are "initially lower quality." However, these stones can be "enhanced" through technological processes to improve their quality.

De Beers, the London-based jeweler that created the timeless tagline "A diamond is forever," has also embraced the trend. General Manager of Sino-Crystal, another Chinese company, said De Beers' move allowed for the man-made diamond market to develop fast.

Despite the growing trend, the synthetic diamonds sect has faced opposition from some companies that capitalize on mined gemstones. Zimnisky noted that lab-grown diamonds will remain in the "fashion jewelry" category while mined, natural stones should still be placed under the "fine jewelry" category.

On the other hand, it is expected that man-made diamond sales will keep growing. Market growth is predicted to soar by 22 percent annually by 2023.

Meanwhile, factories in the Indian city of Surat are profiting from the man-made diamond industry. Kirti Shah, a diamond exporter, said the Indian industry utilizes "the same technology in China and Singapore" in the process of growing synthetic stones, as reported by The India Times.

Experts noted that Indian factories need to leverage on gemstone processes that are more sustainable, especially with the decline in demand for natural diamonds.

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